By John Marrah
On the 25th November 2019 the Chief Minister, Professor David Francis opened the four day Mano River Union (MRU) peace and security conference in collaboration with UNOWAS at the Golden Tulip Kimbima hotel.
In his address, he said, the MRU States have often been characterized as volatile and the spillover effects of the past civil wars justified the establishment and operationalization of the joint border security and confidence building units for effective border security, and to prevent illegal movement of weapons, human trafficking, contraband drugs and criminals.
“Therefore, the role of the joint border security and confidence building units is pivotal in maintaining peace and security from the community right to the national and sub-regional level within the MRU states.”
Giving the keynote address, the Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Dr Francis Kaikai said the reason for the formation of MRU was to facilitate trade and social mobilization across the countries.
He said the government of Sierra Leone is looking forward to this joint meeting to develop proactive and effective policy initiatives to strengthen border security and prevent the movement across the borders of foreign terrorist fighters and their ideologies in the sub-region.
“It should be recalled that, in accordance with the expressed directives of the Heads of States and government, the MRU has adopted a legal and regulatory framework, the 15th Revised Protocol, to deal with and promote all issues related to peace, security and stability within the Member States.”
Dr. Kai Kai said MRU should always promote peace and security because they have gone through conflicts that have affected these countries. He said in 2014 these countries were affected by the Ebola outbreak, but now that they have been able to eradicate these problems but still there are cross border challenges that this meeting will look at and find lasting solutions.
The Mayor of Freetown Yvonne Aki-Sawyer welcomed all the delegates that came for the conference and told them that Freetown is going through a transition as they are pushing to rebuild through the Transform Freetown.
She said the reason why the plans are going on fine is because of peace and security that exists in the country. “Without peace and security there is no development and it is the reason why this conference has been called to strengthen and stabilize the sub-region so that continued growth will be effected.
Minister of Internal Affairs ,Edward Soloku, said since 2009 UNOWAS with the MRU with a focus on peace and security related initiatives to stabilize the sub-region that has been challenged by the porous nature of its borders that is undesirably facilitating unmerited movement of armed and criminals groups.
“Against this backdrop, the Security Council resolutions 2000, 2062 and 2066 of 2011, 2012 and 2012 respectively encourage ECOWAS and the MRU develop a sub-regional strategy to address the threat of cross-border movements of armed groups and weapons as well as illicit trafficking.”
He said in order for us to improve the functionality of the JBSCBS, emphasis must be placed on the importance of a robust policy on border management at the national and sub-regional levels.
Minister Soloku averred that the continued capacity enhancement of law enforcement agencies and their allied institutions in Member States, and the involvement of border communities in border management processes, since they are a haven for all kinds of criminal activities.
Secretary General of MRU Madam Medina Wesseh told all participants this meeting will enable stakeholders and government entities to draw lessons from more than seven years of existence of the 38 installed JBSCBUs, to identify urgent actions to improve their operational activities, and to review the current socio-political situation of the sub-region in relation to the electoral context of each of the Union’s Member States.
She said the four day conference will definitely strengthen the peace and security in the region so that development will prevail.
Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) Madam Ruby Sanghu Rojon said UNOWAS has been mandated to, inter alia, contribute to efforts to promote peace and stability in West Africa and Sahel. She said a key aspect in the implementation of this mandate is the collaboration and support to regional and sub-regional institutions such as ECOWAS and the MRU.
“It is worth noting that the countries in the MRU, blessed with abundant natural resources have, over years, been taking concrete steps to promote democratic consolidation, peace and stability in the region. We have seen the holding of regular elections, putting in place of institutional frameworks to enhance democratic values, human rights and the rule of law and undertaking efforts to promote governance and development, which are all key attributes for sustainable peace, stability and development.”
Mr Sunil Saigal the UN Resident Coordinator said there are significant commodities across all four countries should recognize that the results achieved so far in the sub-region are impressive.
“The four countries have made great strides towards political stability, with legitimate authorities established through democratic elections. This progress has contributed to further consolidate the sub-regional and regional stability as well as to give new impetus to integration across the MRU and ECOWAS.”
The conference is expected to end on Friday 28th November, 2019, after a roadmap for the implementation of the recommendations of the meeting is adopted. A final communiqué was drafted at the end of the meeting.
The Communiqué says the Mano River Union Secretariat (MRU), and the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) organized a high level sub regional meeting from 25 to 26 November 2019, in Freetown, Republic of Sierra Leone.
The purpose of the meeting was to review the role of the Joint Border Security and Confidence Building Units (JBSCBUs) In order to draw lessons from the current status of the units and to analyze ways to improve and make them fully operational on a sustained basis, taking into account the socio-economic and political situation of its Member States in the sub-region; as well as to review the various existing MRU peace and security frameworks and make proposals for joint activities.
They called for the conduct of peaceful elections in Guinea and C6te d’Ivoire in 2020.
Secondly, development of a strategic framework of cooperation between the UN system and the MRU that will identify joint initiatives within the peace, security and development nexus;
Thirdly, consideration of upgrading the capacities of the JBSCBUs to function at an optimal level as an early warning and response mechanism, and create a framework for member States to take ownership of these mechanisms, and expanding partnership engagements at multilateral and regional levels that will enable member states to address external threats and other cross-border crimes.
Also they should create a platform to increase advocacy on human rights issues, related to women and youth empowerment, as well as peace building with a particular focus on strengthening the capacity of MARWOPNET.
They further reiterated the strong need to take all measures that would promote regional peace and stability, prevent and reduce tension in pre and post electoral context in Member States, enhance the capacity of the JBSCBUs to address cross border challenges and ensure socio-economic development and regional integration in the sub-region.